Morrisville, N.C. — Amina Shaikh and her husband, Aatif Masood, were on their way to a Friday prayer service at the Islamic Center of Morrisville at the same time authorities were conducting a massive manhunt in Boston to search for a second suspect in the deadly marathon bombings.
The young couple, who moved to the Triangle from India four years ago, share the same faith as Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the two brothers accused of planting the bombs that killed three people and wounded more than 170.
While religion has not been established as a motive in the attacks, Shaikh and Masood worry that the violent acts will cast all Muslims under a cloud of suspicion and expose them to potential backlash. They joined many area Muslims who urged others not to stereotype and to learn more about the world’s second-largest religion before rushing to judgment.
“It’s all about peace and love, as in any religion,” Shaikh said. “Peace and love, that’s it.”
Her husband added: “We're getting a bad image because of someone's wrongdoings. Islam does not teach to hurt anyone. It teaches to be nice with people, good with people.”
Shaikh said that’s the lesson that Muslims are teaching their children.
“We are humans, we treat each other well,” she said.
Several prominent Muslim-American groups released statements Friday condemning the bombings, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest civil liberties group for Muslims, and the Muslim American Public Affairs Council, a statewide inter-faith group based in Raleigh
While Muslims comprise about 1 percent of North Carolina's population, there has been a 30 percent increase in Muslims living in the state in the last 10 years.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, Muslim groups have reached out to educate the community on their religion and create a dialogue with other faiths.
Triangle resident Mohammed Kami believes it's worked.
“Now I think they're more aware of what Islam is and what Muslims do,” he said. “They know there are bad elements in every society, and these are the bad elements of Muslim society.”
Hasnain Ahmad, who moved to the United States from Pakistan in 1969, said his religion as a whole should not be judged by the actions of a few who take a violent interpretation of the faith.
“Let’s say a Christian does something wrong – does that make all America bad?” he said. “We should not make this an Islam thing.”
He also condemned those responsible for the attack.
“They were idiots,” he said. ”How can you kill innocent (people)? A young child was killed. Why?”